More than 50,000 people from across Europe gathered near the Hambacher Forest in western Germany on Saturday to defend the area from the expansion of coal-fired energy and demand much more ambitious climate action.
According to Greenpeace, one of the organizers behind the demonstration, the enormous crowd made up of local farmers, environmental activists, church groups, local residents and supporters from other countries, including Italy, France and the Netherlands. It was the largest-ever anti-coal demonstration in the Rhineland.
Those attending carried large banners declaring "Farmers against coal" and "We will end coal" as they assembled in a massive field and demanded that the RWE energy group be forbidden from further logging in the nearby Hambacher Forest, the largest of its kind in the region.
"This rally is about demanding that the German government break the deadlock of a climate policy that has failed to reduce carbon emissions for nearly a decade now, but it also is about showing governments everywhere that a growing climate movement is demanding an end to dirty and outdated fossil fuels," said Martin Kaiser, executive director of Greenpeace Germany. "The German coal phase-out needs to start here and now and the last coal plant needs to shut down by 2030 if we are to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement."
The mass protest comes in the wake of a legal victory in which a German court forbid RWE from carrying out a clear-cutting operation of the forest.
"The court ruling shows that blatant lies and reckless policies of corporations like RWE are no longer acceptable," said Kaiser. "However, it doesn’t switch off a single coal plant and doesn’t stop any of the other lignite mines. There still are villages, forests and churches in danger of being destroyed and people are no longer willing to accept that – at the Hambach Forest or any other mines anywhere in the world."
While Germany in many ways has lead Europe, and the world, in transitioning to renewable energy, it still operates the largest fleet of coal-fired plants in Europe and the campaigners say that as long as this is true the nation's political leadership will not be left off the hook.
The demonstration also comes ahead of the release of a new series of reports by the UN's IPCC on Monday. According to expectations, the latest declaration from the world's scientific community will again raise the alarm that human-caused global warming continues apace and once more call on the world's government's to increase their efforts to curb emissions and reduce the negative impacts of the fossil fuel industry and other polluting sectors.
As those defending the forest from destruction declared in this video, their fight to save Hambacher is intricately and directly connected to similar struggles and fights across the world.